Empire, Oil, and Disaster - blog about my new book

A religious sect getting more and more attention of the world. Jews in the Middle East already have problems with them. Coincidentally, a terrible terract happens in the largest city of the empire. The same religious sect is blamed for it. The year is 64 AD. The sect is Christians. The place is Rome of the emperor Nero.
Beware of September Ides!

Location: United States

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hail Pharaoh Titus Flavius Vespasianus?

Egyptian, Judean and Syrian legions proclaimed Vespasian as the emperor in July, 69. He came to Rome in September-October 70. Most of this time he stayed in Egypt. Why? Why did he wait a year before claiming the power at home? What was he waiting for?

The Cambridge Ancient History ([1]) with the references to Suetonius, Josephus Flavius and Tacitus gives a few possible answers:
  • Raising money in a rich province.
  • Strong defensive position.
  • Ability to control corn supplies from Egypt.
  • Ability to attribute corn shortages from Africa to Vitellian and “come to the rescue” with Egyptian corn to raise popularity.
  • Ability to send others to do preliminary blood work, thus keeping his own hands clean and retaining an image of an emperor who “put no innocent person to death in his reign except when he was absent or unaware.”
While all these reasons seem plausible, and some are even confirmed, there is another complementary answer that may be interesting. Think of it – Vespasian was not of a high enough origin. He needed encouragement and reaffirmation of his right to claim the throne. And here is what, according to The Cambridge Ancient History ([1]), he does:
  • Suetonius tells about the miracle of healings he performed in Alexandria.
  • Suetonius and Tacitus reported that he visited Serapeum – the Temple of Serapis in Alexandria – and got their confirmation from Egyptian priests. Tacitus gives the name of the priest and Suetonius notes presentation of the attributes of Egyptian kingship.
  • Philostratus mentions that after the visit to Serapeum, Alexandrians hailed Vespasian as son of Ammon, legal sovereign of Egypt, “Divine Caesar” and “Lord Augustus”.
  • Later, some time after 75 AD, Vespasian put a statue of the River God Nile into his Temple of Peace in Rome.
Many authors mention that most of the miracles were arranged by the loyal prefect of Egypt Tiberius Iulius Alexander, but that’s what we would expect anyway. Also, Vespasian was not eager to stress this part of the story. Some authors think that it shows the whole thing was done for the consumption in eastern provinces. This could be true, unless it was supposed to be mostly esoteric, when Vespasian was told that the divine blessing was conditioned on not using it in vain and not overusing it in public. Which we would expect, if Nil and Simaat would be behind that with the purpose of reaffirming the future emperor that he has the right to the throne, rather than a simplistic PR effort.

In any case, what we have in the end, is the Egyptian pharaoh who claimed the title of Roman Emperor and founded the dynasty credited for the period of prosperity and stability.

[1] The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. XI, The High Empire, A.D. 70-192 – Cambridge University Press, Second edition, 2000, ISBN 0-521-26335-2, p.4-7.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tiberius Iulius Alexander

Tiberius Iulius Alexander is a very interesting personage of the history, who plays a significant role in the third book. He was a Jew of Greek culture from Alexandria in Egypt. He was a nephew of Philo Judaeus, famous philosopher of the time, follower of Pythagoras and Plato, who is most known for his effort in merging Judaic and Hellenic traditions together in his teachings. While apparently failing in the grand scheme, he contributed a lot to enrichment of both cultures with the elements of each other.

His nephew, Tiberius Iulius Alexander, was granted citizenship by Tiberius, became epistrategos of Thebaid region of Egypt (Thebes) in 42 AD, procurator of Judea in 46 AD, minister bello to Corbulo in 63 AD, Praefectus Aegypti in 66 AD.

His last appointment (made by Nero, by the way) is most interesting for us. That’s when he, along with Legatus Augusti of Syria C. Licinius Mucianus, became the leading promoter of Vespasian. Two legions in Egypt, three legions in Judea and three legions in Syria became the first to acclaim and recognize Vespasian as the emperor (princeps) in July 69 AD (Jule 1 – Calendas Iulius, July 3, and mid-July respectively).

Later, he participated as a commander under Titus in the siege of Jerusalem and eventually become Praefectus Praetorio, the position occupied by Tigellinus during the time described in the first three books.

Now, the interesting question is: what linked these two high officials – Prefect of Egypt and Legate of Syria, to support Vespasian unanimously? Maybe, nothing? I mean, nothing, null, nil, nihil… Nil Nihil?

Actually… Tacitus tells in his Histories ([4]) that Vespasian and Mucianus have not went along well, but – “exitu demum Neronis positis odiis in medium consuluere, primum per amicos,” – after the death of Nero they started to talk primarily through friends.

[1] Roman Careers
[2] Philo Judaeus in Wikipedia
[3] The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. XI, The High Empire, A.D. 70-192 – Cambridge University Press, Second edition, 2000, ISBN 0-521-26335-2, p.4-7.
[4] P. Corneli Taciti Historiarvm, book 2, chapter 5

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

List of Roman Legions

The number of legions varied with the time. Augustus inherited about 60 legions after the battle of Actium (31 BC), but soon reduced it to about 28, which is about 150,000 men. The number of legions continued to be around 28 since that time.

Legio X Fretensis was garrosioned in Jerusalem for about 200 years and took part in the siege of Jerusalem and Masada.

Other Syrian legions were Legio III Gallica, Legio VI Ferrata, and Legio XII Fulminata.

Two legions stayed in Egypt and, apparently, were under the command of Vespasian at the time when he decided to go to Rome to claim the power. This legion are Legio III Cyrenaica, and Legio XXII Deiotariana.

  1. Legio I Italica
  2. Legio I Parthica
  3. Legio II Adiutrix
  4. Legio II Herculia
  5. Legio II Parthica
  6. Legio II Traiana
  7. Legio III Augusta
  8. Legio III Gallica
  9. Legio III Cyrenaica
  10. Legio IV Italica
  11. Legio IV Macedonica
  12. Legio IV Martia
  13. Legio IV Scythica
  14. Legio V Alaudae
  15. Legio V Macedonica
  16. Legio VI Ferrata
  17. Legio VII Gemina
  18. Legio VIII Augusta
  19. Legio IX Hispana
  20. Legio X Equitata
  21. Legio X Fretensis - garrisoned in Jerusalem, siege of Jerusalem
  22. Legio XII Fulminata
  23. Legio XIII Gemina
  24. Legio XIV Gemina
  25. Legio XV Apollinaris
  26. Legio XXII Deiotariana
[1] http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/intro/legion.htm